To many, the U.S. health care system has become an unintelligible alphabet soup of three-letter health plans. There is little agreement about which characteristics distinguish one type of plan from another. In this article we chip away at what has become a Tower of Babel of managed care and health insurance terminology. We review past and current trends in the market for nontraditional health benefit plans and propose a taxonomy, or system of classification, that will aid in understanding how managed care plans differ from conventional health insurance and from one another. Also included is a comprehensive glossary of terms.

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